Respiratory Protection Program

The EPA worker protection standards (40 USC Part 170) cover the respiratory protection regulations in the agricultural industry. The program requires at minimum that workers complete an OSHA Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire, which can be found at the OSHA Web site.

The United States National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that an industrial hygienist should be consulted during any production process when respirators are considered. General engineering standards are the best way to take care of respiratory problems (4).

In general, whenever there is enough particulate matter in the air that the worker's view is obstructed, it is probably a good idea to consider the use of either an engineering practice to cut down on the amount of particulate matter or a respirator. Chapter 6 prescribes general parameters for the types of respirators required for certain environments. Since regulations create nine classes for particulate filters, the original NIOSH decision logic must be supplemented with an algorithm for selecting the correct particulate filter. The ultimate responsibility for determining the employee's ability to wear a respirator lies with the employer.

If a respirator is needed in the workplace, the employer is required to produce a written respiratory protection program. This program must be administered by a suitably trained program administrator or it may be outsourced. Small company compliance guidelines are available from OSHA by accessing their Web site. The employer must include the following:

1. Procedures for selecting respirators

2. Medical evaluation of workers required to use respirators

3. Fit-testing procedures for tight-fitting respirators

4. Respirator use procedures for both routine and foreseeable emergency activities

5. Respirator maintenance procedures and schedules (cleaning, disinfecting, storage, repair, and discarding)

6. Procedures for ensuring the adequacy of air quality, quantity, and flow for atmosphere-supplying respirators

7. Training for employees regarding the respiratory hazards in the workplace

8. Training for employees on the limitations of the assigned respirator and its proper fit, use, and maintenance

9. Procedures for evaluating the effectiveness of the company's respiratory protection program.

Employees must be trained in the use, maintenance, and care of the respirator. The cleaning procedure should only be done for reusable respirators. There are some respirators that are one-use, throwaways that should not be reused.

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